Almost all successful self-published authors will need a platform.
What is a platform, you ask? It is a single space where you as an author can engage and connect with your fans, readers, and potential readers.Your platform might include your social media pages, your newsletter, and your author website. It should also definitely include a blog.
Blogging is arguably one of the most effective ways to build a following of loyal readers, boost SEO to your website, and even generate content to trickle out on social media and your newsletter. Yes, a blog can help you do all that.
So why don’t you have a blog yet?
Maybe you’ve considered starting one but aren’t sure what topics to include, what format to use, or the best way to get your blog in the hands of your readers. The good news is you are in the right place. In this article we will go over:
- What is Blogging
- Why You Need a Blog Strategy
- How to Create a Blog Content Strategy
- Best Practices for Maintaining your Blog
What is Blogging
Blogging, simply put, is when you write original content and post to your website. Blogging can also include writing content for other people’s websites, but for the sake of this article we are going to define blogging as content you write for your author website that you maintain and own.
Blogging has been around since the late 1990s and it means different things to different people. Some people might view a blog as more of a personal online diary (and certainly the first blogs to take off in the 90s were exactly that), but if you are an author looking to reach more readers and sell more books you might want to consider a more robust strategy than that. Instead, think of your blog as the place where you publish professional writing about a specific subject or theme all with the purpose of discoverability.
But it isn’t enough to just throw some content up on your website and call it a blog. A successful blog needs a content strategy that utilizes SEO, social media, and your entire author platform congruently.
Why You Need a Blog Strategy
Too many authors build their author website and add a blog function only to realize they have no idea what to post. Or, they might have a handful of ideas for blogs that they throw up there but then quickly run out of steam and push their blog to the back burner. Blogging can feel less important than writing your book and if you aren’t seeing any website traffic it can, frankly, feel like a waste of time.
But blogging – like anything in life – takes practice and patience. You aren’t going to be an expert blogger right off the bat but taking time every single week to practice the art of blogging will help you master this skill. To take the guesswork out of “what should I post today” you need a content strategy that combines your areas of expertise with some very basic SEO so that even when you aren’t feeling inspired to write you have a plan to fall back on.
You also need patience. Your blog won’t be discovered on day one, or even on day 101. People won’t start flocking to your website to comment on what you wrote over night. But with the right strategy in place, enough patience to pull it off, and something we call grit, your blog can become a foundational piece of your author platform.
Pro Tip: If you are hoping to land a book deal, investing in a blog content strategy can help build your audience and platform, ultimately helping your chances of getting a book deal.
How Do You Create a Blog Content Strategy?
1. Brainstorm a List of Topic Ideas
If you are a non-fiction writer, starting a blog content strategy is a little more straightforward than a fiction writer. You have written a book about a specific subject, or subjects, that you consider yourself an expert in. That means you already have a plethora of content and blog ideas at your fingertips.
For one, you can repurpose content that is in your book. This doesn’t mean a straight copy and paste from your book to your blog, because you have to remember that online readers are not the same as book readers. Online readers tend to skim, read headlines, look for bullet points etc. So if your book content is dense you will need to break it up for an online writer.
But the good news is that a lot of the content in your book can easily be transformed to your blog with just some minimal editing for SEO optimization. No doubt you also have a list of other ideas, questions, and topics that relate to your subject matter that you could write about. Just think about what questions your ideal reader might have, and how you can answer them.
For fiction writers a blog content strategy is much harder. While non fiction writers can easily determine their theme or area of expertise, fiction writers have a genre not a theme. Their readers are interested in reading books more than searching the internet for information on particular subjects.
Whatever your genre, keep a list of blog topic ideas or headlines that you could write about on your blog.
2. Give Your Topic Ideas Some Structure
The goal of your blog content strategy is to showcase yourself as an expert in a certain subject. In order to do that, you need a variety of pillar content and supporting content. What is that?
- Pillar content: This is your most searched for content. Your pillar content answers the big questions your audience is asking better than anyone else on the internet. It is heavily laden with search terms, key words and cluster keywords to improve its SEO (more on that below). Your pillar content also has no external linking to other sites. It is literally a pillar.
- Supporting content: Supporting content is content you write to support your pillar. It might be a single idea or question from your pillar content that you pull out and examine in more detail. Your supporting content should always point back to your pillar content using internal links and strategic keywords as anchor text. This creates internal backlinks to your pillar content which helps Google’s search engines recognize your pillar content as an authority on this subject. As you write more supporting articles and create more backlinks, Google will begin to catch on.
To create your pillar and supporting article ideas, it’s helpful to create a content spreadsheet. Here is an example of a blog content writing spreadsheet that we use. As you can see, each row is either a pillar or a supporting article idea, and each has its own keyword or search terms. The keywords will be important in determining your headlines, sub headers, and content flow.
3. Find Keywords and Search Terms to Back up your Articles
Now that you have your initial list of pillar content and supporting content ideas, you want to write it in a way that readers will easily be able to find it. That means utilizing the right keywords and search terms in your title, your headers and subheaders and even within the body of your text.
So how do you find keywords for your blogs?
Non fiction writers might already have a list of keywords or search terms they can start with to craft their pillar content. Likely these are some of the main themes in your book.
If you aren’t sure, take your ideas and plug them into Google. Ideally, pose them as a question. See what articles pop up to answer your question. What other questions are people Googling in relation to your initial question? How are those questions being answered and by whom? Is this a question that you could also answer in a blog post?
Keep a list of your original keyword ideas and any others you find in Google. You can also use software like Semrush to help you find keywords and search terms. While Google can show you the top pages of answers to your search term, Semrush can tell you the average monthly volume of traffic for that term as well as how competitive the keyword is. Semrush will also generate clusters of keywords for you based off of a few seed keywords.
Clusters are keywords that are similar enough that Google considers them the same and sends people the same information when they use those keywords.
Cluster keywords are a great tool to fill the body of your content with so that you are not only using your seed keyword but other variations to grab more search traffic. Cluster keywords can also be a good jumping off point for other blog article ideas that may support your main idea.
While tools like Semrush make finding keywords and search terms faster and more convenient you can still use the old fashioned method of googling your questions. Remember that most people nowadays google in the form of a question, which makes writing your blog titles as a question a great idea.
Another idea for blog titles is listicles – think something like ‘8 mistakes to avoid when self-publishing.’ Readers love listicles because they are typically very skimmable. They can peruse the list and skip over the ones they already know while quickly gleaning new information. Definitely incorporate some listicles in your blog content strategy. In fact, listicles can be a great way to take older content and freshen it up a bit. Remember, the more quality content you write about a topic or series of related topics the more organic keywords you can start to rank for.
After you have identified keywords that match your pillar articles you can start researching keywords for your supporting articles. You might come across some questions and search terms that inspire other supporting article ideas you hadn’t thought of before. Track all of these in your spreadsheet.
If you need further help outlining your blog content strategy other helpful websites include quora, reddit, ask me anything, or …. For all of these you can plug in your area of expertise and see what questions people are asking. If they feel relevant to your theme, add these questions as potential blog articles you could write.
4. Start Writing Your Blog
Always post your pillar content first, so that the supporting article has something to link back to. You can publish all your pillar content first, then start bouncing around with your supporting articles.
Alternatively, you could publish two or three pillar pieces, write supporting articles for those, then publish another pillar piece and fill it with supporting articles, etc. The order doesn’t matter as long as the pillar pieces are published first. This will help guarantee your pillar pieces start to generate the most authority on your blog.
Blog Writing Best Practices:
- Don’t worry too much about blog length. Everyone wants to know how long a blog should be, and a quick google search on that topic will land you all kinds of different answers. The truth is that length doesn’t matter so much as searchability and readability.
- Make your headlines snappy. Make sure your headline is clear and utilizes your main keyword or search term. Don’t leave people guessing what your article is about. Tell them up front.
- Utilize sub heads. Don’t forget to use headline 2 and 3 throughout your writing. Breakup paragraphs with sub headers that ideally use some of your cluster keywords, or even reuse your original keyword. Lists and bullet points are also great to break up text and give readers a break.
- Keep your paragraphs short. Even one line paragraphs are fine. Too much text is hard to read on a computer and you will lose some of your points because readers will jump to the next paragraph.
- Consistency is key. It can feel overwhelming to start a blog and realize you need to post every week – or even more than once a week – but consistency is key. Most blogs fail because authors start and within a few weeks are out of ideas and stop writing. But making a continual series of impressions over an extended period of time on a single subject or similarly themed subjects is how you win the game. That means you need to keep writing. If you start today, you may start ranking on some of your keywords 12 months from now.